Reed’s Bargain Bin: Babylon A.D.

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Reed’s Bargain Bin is a recurring column where Reed Farrington tells us about a movie he bought for under $5, and whether or not he regrets the purchase.

Even though Film Junk followers would probably prefer to read current TIFF film reviews than a review of an older science fiction film, I have decided to submit this review of “Babylon A.D.” And at the risk of further enforcing the view that I have a poor taste in films, my review is generally a favorable one in contrast to popular opinion. I was aware that this film did poorly at the box office, but I didn’t realize how many bad reviews this film received until after I had watched the film and checked out the reviews on the Internet. The reason why I watched this film is that I try to watch all the high profile science fiction movies regardless of audience reception. Given that this movie was not screened for critics and that advertising was minimal, I wonder why this movie did not get a straight-to-DVD release instead. Perhaps Vin Diesel’s name attached to an action movie was seen as critic-proof.

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Killer Imports: Shinjuku Incident

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Killer Imports is a regular feature on Film Junk where we explore foreign-language films from around the world that haven’t yet had their chance to shine.

See Jackie Chan drive a farm tractor on an iced, shallow pond and fall through! That’s the only promotional blurb I can think of to sell this latest Jackie Chan movie to a Jackie Chan audience. Shinjuku Incident marks Jackie Chan’s first full attempt at a dramatic role. His role in the 2004 New Police Story movie was more of a transitory role in which he got to do some emoting as a drunken cop and for which he received a Best Actor nomination by the Hong Kong Film Awards and a win by the Golden Rooster Awards. And although there is action in this movie with gangs fighting each other, Jackie’s trademark stunts and fighting skills are nowhere to be seen. Instead of Jackie dealing out the punishment, we see him taking the punishment much more than usual.

Jackie portrays a farm tractor repairman who enters Japan illegally to find his missing girlfriend Xiu Xiu (Xu Jinglei). While he is in Japan, he meets up with a good friend Jie (Daniel Wu) from his hometown and other illegal Chinese immigrants, befriends the Yakuza leader Eguchi (Masaya Kato), and rises to prominence in the Shinjuku district. His friendship with Japanese police detective Kitano (Naoto Takenaka) complicates matters. The Japanese prostitute/bar hostess Lily (Fan Bingbing) also plays an important role.

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Treknobabble #72: Dogs in Space: Charles Schulz’s Peanuts and Star Trek

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Treknobabble is a continuing series of columns written by uber-Trekkie Reed Farrington about Star Trek and how it has influenced his life.

When I was in grade school, a friend of mine and I co-created a school newsletter comic strip called “Dogs in Space.” I believe the main inspiration was the popularity of the Planet of the Apes movies. I’m not even sure we were aware that dogs like Laika were used in early space flight testing by the Russians. Neither of us owned a dog. I think we simply needed another animal besides apes. Dogs were easy to draw and easily recognizable by their snouts and floppy ears. I suppose we could have called the comic strip “Planet of the Dogs,” but I think even at our young age, we didn’t want to make blatantly obvious what the source of our inspiration was.

Anyway, this Treknobabble isn’t about that comic strip. And it’s not about the 80’s film with Michael Hutchence. It wasn’t even originally supposed to be about the dogs that were used in the Russian space program, but after a bit of research, I thought I should devote a paragraph or two to these special examples of “man’s best friend.” Instead, I wanted to write about the connection between Star Trek and another of my favorite things, Charles Schulz’s Peanuts and especially Snoopy. And I’ll also be writing about Porthos, the real-life beagle that appeared in the Star Trek series, Enterprise.

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Treknobabble #71: A Reappraisal of Star Trek: The Motion Picture

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Treknobabble is a continuing series of columns written by uber-Trekkie Reed Farrington about Star Trek and how it has influenced his life.

When I first watched Star Trek: The Motion Picture (STTMP) in a theatre in 1979, I must admit that I thought that Gene Roddenberry could do no wrong. I was one of those Trekkies who were eager for new adventures after years of watching reruns. I think I watched the theatre screen with rapt attention even with the interminable fly-throughs of the V’Ger spacecraft. I must admit that I didn’t clue in to the twist even when the crew approached the Voyager type spacecraft. I remember being disappointed by the simple resolution of the threat. And I did miss the fun factor even though I had thought most of the humor in the television series was hammy.

Visually, I liked the monochromatic design with the gray and muted colors. I thought Star Trek needed a more serious, realistic look to counter the overuse of color that was used in the Original Series (TOS) in order to sell color televisions. The costumes appeared more dignified. I thought that it made more sense now that engineering personnel had special outfits. Also the security personnel now had head and chest protection. I had pre-imagined the all-in-one pants and boots as a visually appeasing look. I was probably influenced by the svelte appearance of Bruce Lee in a form fitting track suit. In our current day and age, this idea of the pants and boots being one piece seems rather impractical, but in the 23rd century, laundry doesn’t seem like it would be much of a problem. As the movie showed, after you showered, you could have transporter technology “instantly” clothe you.

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Treknobabble #70: Across the Star Trek Universe

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Treknobabble is a continuing series of columns written by uber-Trekkie Reed Farrington about Star Trek and how it has influenced his life.

You know when you find something that you like, whether it be a song or book or movie or whatever, and you want to share that something with family and friends? And you really hope that they share the same feeling about that something? Or how about the feeling that you get when you find out that the creators of things you admire are fans of each other? I’ve grown to agree with the familiar saying that you can judge a man by the friends he has. I suppose in trying to understand myself, I’ve been trying to assess the commonality among all my interests by looking at the people behind my interests. Although this may sound self-serving, I agree with Plato in his statement that an unexamined life is a life not worth living. Since this is a column about Star Trek, I thought it would be interesting to find connections between Star Trek and other things I love. In this column, I’ll be looking at the sporadic connections between Star Trek and The Beatles.

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Reed’s Bargain Bin: S1m0ne

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Reed’s Bargain Bin is a recurring column where Reed Farrington tells us about a movie he bought for under $5, and whether or not he regrets the purchase.

Despite the clever title and participation of Al Pacino, S1m0ne did not receive much attention from critics or movie theatre audiences when it came out in 2002. The director, Andrew Niccol, had some acclaim as a result of having directed Gattaca (a smart science fiction film about a physically defective human in a genetically manipulated world) and having written The Truman Show (a smart allegorical film about a man who’s oblivious to the fact that his life has been manufactured for the purposes of a television show). S1m0ne also has a high concept idea behind it: a movie director creates a computer generated actor who becomes a star while only he knows that the actor is computer generated.

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Killer Imports: My Sassy Girl

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Killer Imports is a regular feature on Film Junk where we explore foreign-language films from around the world that haven’t yet had their chance to shine.

I think I once loved a girl. The reason I bring this up is that I recently watched a Korean movie called My Sassy Girl and the woman referenced in the title reminded me of her. I wouldn’t normally review a romantic comedy, but I had read about this movie after having seen one of the director’s previous movies, Cyborg She, which I favorably reviewed recently. Both these movies are a part of a trilogy by the writer and director, Jae-young Kwak, although the science fiction element in My Sassy Girl is not the basis of the reality in the movie. I’ll get to that soon enough.

Since this movie was released in 2001, I’ll admit that I’m late to the party of supporters for this movie. In Korea, this film was the second highest grossing film in that year. And at the time, it was Korea’s highest grossing comedy ever. Its success even caught the attention of Hollywood. Dreamworks got the rights for a remake for $750,000 plus 4 percent of the worldwide gross. More on this in a couple of minutes or so (depending on how fast you read). A Japanese television series was even created based on the original source material.

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Killer Imports: Fatal Move

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Killer Imports is a regular feature on Film Junk where we explore foreign-language films from around the world that haven’t yet had their chance to shine.

There’s a scene in Fatal Move that made me appreciate this film. The camera is shooting from a relatively high angle, looking down at the aftermath of a shooting in which Chinese Triad members are laying on the pavement beside a car. We see another car enter the scene quickly. And the car runs over one of the men lying on the road! Normally, in the movies, you would expect a car to swerve around a body on the road, because you would be expecting a stuntman to be lying on the road. I didn’t rewind to see if the film-makers used a dummy or a CGI facsimile, but this subversion of expectation is the visual sleight of hand that I love.

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Killer Imports: Cyborg She

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Killer Imports is a regular feature on Film Junk where we explore foreign-language films from around the world that haven’t yet had their chance to shine.

I wish I had made this movie. I think that’s one of the highest endorsements I can give. (If I had made it, I would have subtitled it “The Reed Farrington Story.” (Just kidding.) I’ll explain this a little during this review.) If you don’t want the movie spoiled, then I suggest you force yourself to forget the title of the movie, that is, Cyborg She. Oh, sorry about reminding you about the title. Well, I suppose it doesn’t have to be a secret, but the fact that the love interest is a robot, I mean cyborg, isn’t revealed in the movie until about a half an hour or so into the movie. But I think revealing that she is a robot in the title of this movie is meant to help this movie find its audience. I suppose if this movie was called “Love Eternal”, some female audience members expecting a straight-forward romance would be upset.

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Treknobabble #69: Make a Difference

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Treknobabble is a continuing series of columns written by uber-Trekkie Reed Farrington leading up to and following the release of J.J. Abrams Star Trek movie.

“Don’t let them promote you. Don’t let them transfer you. Don’t let anything take you off the bridge of that ship. Because while you’re there, you can make a difference.”
– Kirk to Picard before Picard convinces Kirk to help him, resulting in Kirk’s “death”.

Hopefully, when you try to make a difference, you won’t end up dying like Kirk. But that’s the risk I suppose that’s worth taking. I guess it’s the same message that’s in the latest movie when Pike dares Kirk to do better than Kirk’s father. And in a famous Kirk soliloquy from an Original Series’ episode, “Return to Tomorrow,” Kirk passionately says, “Risk is our business.”

I’ve been in semi-retirement for six months now. And I can’t seem to relax. My mind keeps thinking that I should do something with my life. The best years have passed me by; however, if my health remains well, I still have half my life with which to accomplish something. Being in a state of inertia, I think I’ll most likely not do anything with my life. Even knowing that on my death bed that I’ll regret not having done anything, I still can’t motivate myself to do anything.

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Treknobabble #68: Don’t Hate Me Because I Hated Star Trek

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Treknobabble is a continuing series of columns written by uber-Trekkie Reed Farrington leading up to and following the release of J.J. Abrams Star Trek movie.

Don’t worry. I’m not about to defend my hatred of the latest Star Trek movie for the umpteenth time. And I’m exaggerating because I didn’t hate the movie. I was disappointed by it. No, this Treknobabble is an editorial generally concerning how people react to movie reviews. So I’ll be talking about things like people’s tendency to judge other people based on the movies they like, and how movie reviews are perceived. Of course, this discussion can apply to other artistic endeavors like music and books, but since this is a film site, I’ll try to focus on films whenever I can.

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Reed’s Bargain Bin: The Good Night

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Reed’s Bargain Bin is a recurring column where Reed Farrington tells us about a movie he bought for under $5, and whether or not he regrets the purchase.

On a recent foray to a local video store for bargain bin videos, I picked up a movie called The Good Night, written and directed by Jake Paltrow, Gwyneth’s brother. I’m not sure how obscure this movie is (Sean had heard of it and correctly named one of the stars, Martin Freeman), but it had a limited theatrical release in 2007 after premiering at the Sundance Film Festival. Besides Freeman, it also stars Penelope Cruz, Gwyneth, Simon Pegg, and Danny DeVito. (One of the photos on the DVD cover is of Martin Freeman, but I initially thought the photo was of Ewan McGregor.) Now if you know your actors and also that I have an unusual penchant for collecting anything obscurely related to Star Trek, then you’ll have realized why I bought this movie. In case you’re puzzled, I’ll tell you why. Simon Pegg played Scotty in the recent Star Trek movie.

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